(HealthDay News) — Visual images such as those of benign and cancerous skin lesions increase awareness and accuracy of skin self-examination, according to a review published in the July issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Jennifer E. McWhirter and Laurie Hoffman-Goetz, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the University of Waterloo in Canada, identified and reviewed outcomes from 25 published studies that used visual images to promote skin self-examination for early detection of skin cancer.

The researchers found that visual images increased knowledge and self-efficacy related to skin self-examination and increased the frequency and accuracy of skin self-examination and melanoma detection. The most effective images were mole-mapping diagrams, baseline photographs of patients’ own moles and skin surfaces, benign and cancerous lesions, dermoscopy, and lesions changing over time. Text descriptors alone were found to be ineffective.

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“Evidence from this systematic review suggests an important role for visual images in patient education related to informed self-monitoring for skin lesions,” McWhirter and Hoffman-Goetz conclude. “Patients should have access to images for viewing at any point in time, and to large quantities of exemplars, to augment visual memory and pattern-based recognition, respectively.”